Thursday, 23 May 2013

Back In The Zone - Zone Mortalis Tactica

Hey everyone, today I am going to discuss the mind-set, methods and tactics you should consider when playing the Zone Mortalis encounter missions, this is something you won’t find much information on due to the high price of Mortalis tables making them a rarity but I am lucky enough to own 20 tiles so me and my friends get to play Mortalis quite often.

If you are not familiar with the rules for the Zone Mortalis mini game then head over to Forgeworld and download the free .pdf and have a read otherwise a lot of what I am going to talk about won’t make much sense.

Here are some changes that are worth taking into account when playing Mortalis, failure to do so will end in disappointment and frustration.

Cover Saves
I will talk about this in the context of what cover we often use on my board, so barrels/oil drums are a 6+ and bulkhead corners are a 5+ so that means hiding half of your models round a corner will not give you a 4+ cover anymore, only fortified structures give you a 4+ now.

Firestorm & Shrapnel
Blast and template weapons are given the shred special rule so they re-roll to wound due to the confided nature of the Mortalis terrain but in addition if your weapon already has the shred special rule it gains a +1 strength also OUCH!

Blind Panic
If while falling back a unit passes through over or within 1" of another friendly unit that unit must take a moral check which will cause them to also fall back if failed.

Reaction Fire
This was overwatch and snapfire before 6th Edition coined the phrases overwatch or snapfire and used to work the same as what we now know as Overwatch by using snapfire but in the latest update reaction fire changed and got way more on if you dare......reaction fire is carried out just like overwatch BUT! the unit being charged must roll an initiative test at majority value needing equal to or under as usual to pass, if successful the unit shoots at full BS......FULL BS OMFG!!!! if failed you revert to the normal BS1 of snapfire.

Nowhere To Hide
The victorious side in an assault may re-roll their sweeping advance result OUCH!!!

Jump Pack infantry who move more than 6" in the movement phase take dangerous terrain tests, non-walker vehicles treat all of Zone Mortalis as both difficult and dangerous terrain at all times.

The secondary main missions Slay the Warlod and 1st Blood are now included in Mortalis along with night fighting but this is considered to be power interruptions rather than weather.

There are three encounter missions Search and Destroy, Capture Ground and Invasion

Search and Destroy
This mission represents the vicious struggle to control the Zone Mortalis through brute savagery and attrition, destroying the enemy’s forces in detail. Kill points are used to determine the victor, with one Kill point scored for each enemy unit, Independent Character or Walker destroyed. At the end of the battle, the side with the highest tally of Kill points is the winner.

Capture Ground
The two forces must control the area of the Zone Mortalis and drive out the enemy. This mission goal uses five objective counters. The first of these is deployed as close to the centre of the table as possible, while each side places two additional objectives each anywhere on the table so long as they are not placed within impassable terrain, or less than 6" away from the table edge or within 6" of another objective.
Control of the centre objective is worth 3 Victory points, whereas control of the other objectives is worth 1 Victory point each. The side in control of the most objectives at the end of the game wins.

When playing on a larger table (such as a 6' x 4' Zone Mortalis), increase the number of objectives to seven.

The two opposing forces seek to fight their way into enemy-held territory, slaughtering as many of the foe as possible.
For every scoring unit within the enemy deployment zone at the end of the game, the owning player gains 3 Victory points. For every destroyed enemy unit, the player gains 1 Victory point. The player with the most Victory points at the end of the game wins.

After playing a great many games on the Zone Mortalis board I have come to appreciate the fact that you really need a solid plan for each unit that you include in your list ahead of time. The labyrinthine nature of the Mortalis terrain means that you will usually only get one chance to achieve anything with any given unit, if you try to backtrack or change direction you will quickly find that the game is over and your units are still not in position and may not have even engaged the enemy.

With random game length you need to play like turn 5 is the last turn of the game every time and sometimes it will take a hard aggressive push each turn just to have a few rounds of contact with the enemy before the games ends.

Your List
When building your army list you should consider the three missions carefully and make sure you select units that can achieve specific tasks and objectives within each of them then you will be able to face each of them knowing that you have including something to help you in each instance.
So kill points feature in two of the three missions so it’s worth taking full units for resilience obviously taking into account the unit size restrictions in Mortalis and loading up with special weapons like Plasma Guns to insure maximum damage is dealt during your turn while also presenting a threat to any would be assault units through reaction fire.
The need to reach and hold objectives is also important as it features heavily in the Capture Ground mission, as Elite and Troop units count as scoring in Mortalis you should consider taking at least one good solid elite unit like Terminators for example who have the firepower to attack an objective and the resilience to then hold it.

Lastly you need to find a way of getting at least one scoring unit into your enemy’s deployment zone in case you roll the Invasion mission, this is basically Line Breaker but it can be scored by multiple units and awards you 3 victory points each time. This mission can be hard for slow infantry units to achieve as the deployment zones are 6” deep in Mortalis rather than 12”. You will often find that you have no chance of reaching your enemy DZ through walking and running alone as just one enemy engagement no matter how fleeting might slow your advance enough to put you out of the running by turn 5. Try to think of a devious way of increasing the early turn mobility of one or more of your key units so you can get some extra trigger time with the enemy as Mortalis is a savage and unforgiving little rules set so the sooner you start the killing the better it will be for you late game.

A good place to start would be looking at the units in your codex that can infiltrate or outflank as this can sometimes mean a unit starting the game in the enemies DZ or walking into it from reserves via outflanking, also fast units like bikes should be considered just expect to be taking a lot of dangerous terrain checks when boosting.

Let me show you my Dark Angels list, it has been built to tackle all of the missions and I will explain why I have taken each unit and what I hope to achieve with each.

Army List – 996pts

Mastery Level 2
Bolt Pistol
Force Sword
Power Armour
Forcefield Generator

This guy is a force multiplier and should be used to buff your units as often as possible while avoiding danger at all costs so you don’t go giving away Slay the Warlord. Your Warlord Traits will be coming from the codex and from what I can see they are all good so no worries there. A note on wargear I have included the Forcefield Generator to help increase the survivability of any unit the Librarian joins.

Deathwing Terminators x5
Storm Bolter x4
Power Sword
Power Fist x4
Assault Cannon

This unit should be held in reserves and should arrive via Deathwing assault on turn 2, they will arrive ahead of the rest of your army as close as is possible to really give you enemy something to worry about, you should aggressively pursue objectives with this unit as their ability to shoot as twin-linked the turn they arrive should encourage you to drop them in hard and heavy.

Scout Squad x5
Boltgun x5

Infiltration is the name of the game in objective missions with this small unit while outflanking will be your best option in invasion, in a kill points game you should try to place this unit somewhere safe so they won’t give away their points.

Tactical Squad x10
Boltgun x9
Plasma Gun

Tactical Squad x10
Boltgun x9
Plasma Gun

These units should be used to expand and hold your front line while using the threat of mass reaction fire to ward against enemy assaults, in conjunction with the Librarian and his buffs these units will prove very useful in a Mortalis environment, a word of warning though keep them away from enemy Plasma Cannon’s at all cost.

Ravenwing Black Knights x3
Korvus Hammer
Plasma Talon
Locator Beacon

Zooming is the name of the game with these guys, you want to get them moving forwards as far as you can turn one and have them hold up with their locator beacons in a position that the Deathwing can take advantage of when they arrive in turn 2. Keep them safe until the Deathwing arrive then have them weigh in with their Plasma Talons.

Devastator Squad
Plasma Cannon x4

You will soon find that a Plasma Cannon that has the shred special rule can deal with almost most anything you are likely to see in Mortalis and if you are skilled in their placement at the very least you will deny a whole section of the board to your opponent.


This image shows an example of a table setup I played on recently and how I would deploy my Dark Angel list. You have seven units in total and in Mortalis you must split your force and deploy half at the start of the game while the rest are kept in reserves, this is another reason why you should have a clear idea in your head as to how each unit will act as deployment order is very important. The last thing you want is for your forward until to find themselves stuck in reserves where they will have no chance to cover the distance needed to reach the enemy lines before the games end.

I would start with the Ravenwing Black Knights on the table as they need to be in place come turn 2 so the Deathwing can deploy without the danger of scattering. I would also place the Devastator Squad on the table from the start in a good denial position then one of my Tactical Squads covering a flank with a good line of fire. So that’s three of my 7 units on the table so as we generally say that half rounding up can start in reserves I will place the Librarian on the table and then put the last Tactical Squad in reserves along with the Deathwing who will enter play via deep strike and then have the scouts arrive via outflank.

So that’s four units on the table and three in reserves, now if this was a Kill Points game the scouts would remain in reserves and walk on from the back line and if it was invasion you would infiltrate them somewhere close to the enemy DZ or have them outflank.

This deployment gives you plenty of options to push forwards and advance your front line while taking advantage of the distraction the Deathwing Terminators will cause when they arrive. You have speed in the form of the Black Knights so once the Deathwing arrive they can break off and go for the end zone in invasion or go off hunting targets of opportunity playing the midfield and staling any enemy units hoping you break through your lines.

I think you can apply this method of list building for Mortalis to most if not all armies, I am going to take this list out for a spin myself in my next Mortalis game so I will let you all know how it I think about it my next game will likely be Vs the new Eldar codex so that will make interesting reading for that reason alone.

Well that was a very long post so I am going to leave it for now.


  1. Awesome stuff again, thanks Simon. I think the Battle Focus rules for the new Eldar Codex would make them extremely useful in this type of game environment.

    The reaction fire rule seems very powerful, but on second thoughts it could be the only round of shooting a unit gets at somebody charging it

  2. Yeah Eldar will be very good in Mortalis, ducking out moving shooting then getting back into cover.